We all go “work” our ponies. “Work the flag.” “Work some cows.” “Practice cuts.” Most of the time these are short sessions. Show up early, often right after breakfast, which was right after last call. Saddle up, lope a little, work, put up and leave. In some cases, your horse is ready and you step on, work and leave.
If you sent invites to people to get up at 3 a.m. to meet you at a trainer’s barn an hour away when the temperature was either below freezing or close to 100 so y’all could spend two hours waiting to ride five minutes, all in the hopes of getting a little praise from that trainer, my suspicion is very few would accept. The kindest of your friends would suggest you seek counseling, assuming you still have some friends in the real world who haven’t already written you off as bat guano crazy. Most regular people’s goals involve having enough success in life that they don’t have to get up at 3 when it is so cold Huskies won’t go outside. Not us. Our goals are to earn this privilege; we can hardly wait.
I am sure that most of you are aware of the many and varied opinions on recent drug policies that involve the horse racing industry, as well as those that concern our show and performance horses. After much thought on this subject and especially after the American Quarter Horse Association’s (AQHA) suspension of the Multiple Medication Violation System as it pertains to Quarter Horse racing, I think our equine industry’s efforts should be pointed in a concerted direction.
We all know one. Most of us have had one, to our regret. The “pet” horse, pony, or the equine world’s version of the devil incarnate, a Shetland pony. It was a gift for the chil’ren, most often a girl child so she could play “doll dress up” – lovingly leading, washing, brushing, feeding treats, weaving ribbons in manes and tails, sometimes even riding them. Indulging them in every whim imaginable till they become the sorriest, most aggravating, vexing things to ever set foot on your place. They became the worst of all things. A “pet.”
“Tack” is all our leather goods for horses, mostly bridles and saddles. Stuff you keep in a “tack room.” That half pint of whiskey hidden on a rafter is not tack, though. “Tact” is the skill of saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be, by the person who should, to the person who needs to hear it – without malice and hurt. You can never have too much of either.
Your 2-year-old should already be under a saddle. Buttermilk’s is with Dan Edwards. He worked for Sean Flynn last before opening his own barn. He started Piper and Squiggles, who’ve earned $185,000 between them. So why not use him to start Fort Worth Skeet Club, aka Q-Tip? I called him in August and he was booked! I felt like the parent who got two pink bars and failed to call schools for a Pre-K slot. Emergency! I appealed to a higher power, R.L. Chartier, to save my marriage. Got ’er done.
The new pony continues to be an emerging dream. Robbie Boyce showed her in the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity Open, missed the semis by a half-point but made the John Deere Open finals. Needed more cow, but no penalties. They finished 11th for 3,900 some odd dollars. Earning her Certificate of Ability, she is now an official cutting horse.
Last month I talked about shopping for a new horse. It looks like my patience paid off; R.L. Chartier found me a pony that fits. She was with another trainer and will stay there for now.
“Horseman.” This term, in my opinion, describes a person who understands and respects horses. He or she is completely comfortable handling, riding, teaching, interpreting, using and caring for the needs of a horse. This person navigates him or herself around the equine species with an aura of confidence and respect for the animal. A true horseman never has to characterize him or herself as such; that quality is immediately evident and recognizable to anyone who knows what it takes to be one. A horseman commands respect from his or her peers by action, accomplishment and knowledge, which places this person in a unique strata – apart from the general crowd in the horse world. Simply put, he or she stands out and apart from the rest.
Problem is, there are too few horsemen in the equine industry today. Many call themselves horsemen, but few actually grasp and express the concept, and even fewer possess the work ethic required to reach that plateau.
Squiggles is 6. We have won close to $20,000. It is mostly my fault it isn’t more. Buttermilk and I show aged events, so I need a 3-year-old. We raised him and his half-sister Piper, who aged out last year and is now bred. We are raising yearling and weanling relatives. There is a gap in our “raise them yourself” pipeline. I hate shopping for anything, but especially horses, and in particular unproven ones. It’s a gamble. Buttermilk’s poker-playing friends have asked me why I don’t play poker, too. “Don’t I like gambling?” I do like gambling, but I saddle my bets.